I agree with DMD

Dave, I hope you aren’t suffering from any health issues when I make that statement.

Over at Dave’s new blog, he says this:

And if that weren’t bad enough, by making Calvinism the central issue, he distracts us away from the real question that should be in front of us. What we really need to ask, it seems, is this, “If young men can find Calvinism within fundamentalism, then why are they leaving?” The answer to that question is where the message should have gone. And the answer to that question is far more complex that Pastor Sweatt seems willing to allow.

You can read the whole post here.

I agree that Calvinism isn’t the problem. I agree that we need to talk about why some are leaving. Dave seems to think that maybe the notion that  young men are leaving isn’t true, but I’ll leave that up to him to demonstrate. (In some ways, I think the problem is that some are not leaving, just agitating and stirring up trouble. But I digress.)

I can think of a number of reasons why some are leaving fundamentalism. Some are the ‘fault’ of those leaving and others are the ‘fault’ of those staying. I wonder how many of the reasons are really new reasons. I know many of my classmates and compatriots at BJU who are no longer fundamentalists. People have been leaving for a long time. The reasons haven’t changed much.

Perhaps the only thing that has changed is the numbers of those leaving? Not sure about that. Certainly the loudness of leaving seems to be much greater these days.

And although Calvinism isn’t the central issue, there is a tide of Reformed theology sweeping the Church these days. It isn’t confined merely to Fundamentalism, but it is causing problems in Fundamentalism. It is, however, not the central issue in causing leave-taking, I am convinced.

So before I wax eloquent, I wonder if my five readers might care to contribute their suggestions for reasons people are leaving Fundamentalism?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


  1. Don,

    I think a number of issues is fueling the unrest within fundamentalism. First, there’s the ever-contentious music issue. I dare say more young fundamentalists have cut ties with fundamentalism over this one concern than any other. As they see it, ranking music along with the Virgin Birth is not only inappropriate it but scandalous. And many have left off supporting fundamentalist concerns over it.

    Second, I don’t think our schools are doing a very good job in capturing the hearts, minds, and imaginations of our young people. They’re failing to articulate a robust, interactive vision of fundamentalism. Something is dreadfully wrong when our young men, for instance, can come up through our Christian schools, complete their undergraduate (and often postgraduate) work at our fundamentalist colleges, and then walk out the door into the waiting arms of J-Mac or J-Piper. There needs to be some real soul-searching on the part of our training institutions.

    Third, I think dress codes have done enormous damage to the fundamentalist movement and especially to the young within it. For some reason fundamentalism, especially certain regional varieties, has never found that happy sumptuary medium between a woman stepping off the Mayflower and out of a Spiegel catalogue. Fundamentalists have for too long tied a Biblical expression of Christianity to a shirt, tie, and pantyhose. I know. I was schooled in that environment.

    Fourth, I believe it lacks vigor, freshness, and variety. I’ve spent many years among fundamentalists and believe, for the most part, that they’re the salt of the earth, and I’d never exchange my birthright among them for a mess of CE pottage. But the fact remains fundamentalists are often dry and lack innovation. Some of this is now changing, but it has left many indifferent toward our movement.

    Fifth, I think the doctrinal imprecision and indifference concerning the Calvinist-non Calvinist issue within our academic institutions has helped create some of the current unrest. While I vehemently reject Calvinism, I admire Calvinists who boldly declare their beliefs and reject all non Calvinists as pussyfooting Pelagians. I have said repeatedly that Calvinists, especially given their peculiar doctrines, can never dwell peaceably with their brethren. And, of course, history confirms this, as Kangaroo Dort and the Westminster Assembly demonstrate. When I hear Calvinists and non Calvinists pleading for mutual tolerance and accommodation within fundamentalism, I cringe and sadly recall the ringing anathemas of the Calvinian divines. Calvinists have already spoken concerning my non Calvinism. Perhaps it’s time we speak up concerning their necessitarianism.

    Sixth, I think another area that has hurt fundamentalism, not only with fundamentalists themselves but with others as well, is the absence of published materials. If we don’t define ourselves, others will. If we don’t feed our own, others will. If we don’t defend ourselves, others certainly won’t. And if we don’t articulate a convincing apologetic for fundamentalism, then why should we complain about defections? True, there’s been some recent movement to fill this need, but it may be too little too late. It’s not surprising, is it, that if we don’t give substance to our faith that we’ll soon lose the earnest and serious among us?

    Seventh, of course, there are personality issues, top-down authority issues, fiefdom issues, unrepentant sin issues, polarization issues, leadership issues, attitude issues, respecter-of- persons issues, good ol’ boy issues, institutional issues, and accountability issues. Yet all these are fixable, and perhaps some are even being fixed as I type. But until real progress is made, fundamentalism will continue to suffer.

    Well, I better stop here.

    Have a good one!


  2. I too agree with Dave. I don’t think it is a love of Calvinism is what it is, if the exodus is actually happening at all. I haven’t been there to see it.

    I don’t believe I left because it’s not right wing. I left because of clear violations of scripture. Later the president of the FBF is gone because of drunkenness. I would agree that he had other problems that weren’t pointed out because of politics. This hints to why I could see men leaving.

    Why young fundamentalists are leaving the FBFI? (not necessarily in order)
    1. Not enough scriptural defense for why the young men need to stay. The FBF leadership seems to be afraid to point out the problems of evangelicalism and they too have a lot of good things to say about the CE. I think this could be seen in the Minnick-Dever talk. Dever puts Doran in his paper. Central has one of their professors at some new academic forum (I think ETS). Piper commends Bauder on his blog. Calvary has that psychologist that you mentioned. Several go to TG4 or Shepherd’s Conference. I have more things to say bad about evangelicalism than they do. The most visible and respected leaders in FBF circles don’t seem to be too upset about evangelicalism.
    2. Success is numbers and evangelical churches get bigger for obvious reasons. Young fundies want success and popularity and where it’s at is with evangelicalism. They also feel credibility in those ranks as well.
    3. The abuses of fundamentalism haven’t been smacked down hard enough by its leaders.
    4. The expositors among evangelicals are more gifted. The young fundies can’t stand the old time fundamentalist topical preaching and among the expositors, they look up to the new evangelicals. This is why the Sweatt thing was so bad. He preaches a very bad message with little to back it up and he looks silly to young fundamentalists who want it broken down starting from the text.
    5. Evangelicals give more kudos to young guys and fundamentalists seem to have some kind of tenure system that disrespects the young guy’s thoughts. That’s why they love the blogworld—they get to challenge the status quo.

    I would add another major one that I believe you would disagree with, Don.
    6. If there is to be unity in the body, and the body is the universal church, i.e. all believers, then young fundies see evangelicalism as a more consistent position on unity. If there is to be no schism in the body, it seems that fundamentalists are the ones most responsible for that schism.
    And you won’t like this one either.
    7. Fundamentalists and evangelicals now use the same Bible. In their minds, the fundamentalists they despise use the KJV. They don’t want anything to do with that.

    There may be more, but this is what comes to mind.

  3. In no particular order:

    1. They have been burned by an IFBX ministry or a carnally-acting pastor within a non-extreme wing

    2. They cannot find solid preaching from fundamentalists in their area (or they cannot find sound theology that they agree with, such as Calvinism, sanctification, or a right stance on the version issue)

    3. They do not like anti-CCM, anti-drinking, or other common standards found within fundamentalism.

    4. They reject so-called second degree separation.

  4. Don,

    People I know have left because of the legalism and arrogance of preachers and teachers from their past. Some have bent over backwards to distinguish themselves – even to the point of compromising core principles, or even their personal integrity.

    I have been careful to point out the danger in making choices based upon experience (good or bad), but few have responded. They are similar to the lost man who refuses to embrace Christ “because of all the hypocrites in the church”. I ask: when a hypocrite is between you and God – who’s closer to God?

    The defections are often pretty sad for me, which is why I think it is important that we refuse to make certain men “untouchables”. I believe ministers who do and teach wrongly anywhere in the spectrum between mainstream evangelical to traditional fundamentalist should be held to account.


    • Wow, guys. Excellent answers. Even 6 & 7 for Kent! I really appreciate your taking some time on this.

      So that’s four readers. I guess there might be one more!!!

      I’ll comment more on this later. Right now its time for supper and I have my priorities!

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. I’ve read all of these and they are good. As I read them, I found 3 & 4 of Andy ringing true with me in addition to mine, with no disrespect to anyone else’s. They were interesting reads.

  6. Hi Don. Glad to be counted as your fifth reader. :-)

    Perhaps a big part of the reason so many young fundamentalists are leaving is the growing emphasis on expository ministries in some quarters of evangelicalism against the backdrop of personality-driven ministries in certain fundamentalist camps.

    Maybe this exodus can be traced back to the issue of authority…”WHO says it’s this way and not that way?” It does seem that many of the younger generation are challenging ideas that have long been taken for granted as scriptural in fundamentalism. Maybe some good will come of this. Maybe this will drive us back to the Bible to reexamine some of the non-fundamental beliefs and practices we persistently hold to, and the spirit in which we hold to them.

  7. Before answering your question, I have to ask, which Fundamentalism? It has always been a splintered and divided movement. BBF fundamentalism? BJU fundamentalism? Sword of the Lord fundamentalism? GARBC fundamentalism? Some other kind I’ve left out?

    These are people have rarely gotten along with each other for very long. Norris and Rice split in the 30s. Jones Sr and Rice stood together against Graham in the 50s, but Jones Jr and Rice split over Wrytzen in the 70s. Hyles polarized and split a chunk (of one section) of the movement in the 80s.

    Most of the people I know who have “left” fundamentalism as that process would be described by the SOTL or FBF people (and I realize that they would not wish to be lumped together, but for purposes of my illustration…) still believe, preach and practice all of the doctrines that Torrey et al would have described as fundamentals. But they are sick and tired of majoring on minors and being expected to fight to the death over every latest Shibboleth that comes along. When we left off contending for the faith for the sake of contending for preferences, we lost our reason for existence.

    There is no one left with the stature of a Riley, Ketcham, Jones Sr or Rice that can reach across some of the lines drawn between the groups of warring fundamentalists. I think the past is just prologue…these groups will continue to divide and subdivide and splinter until there are hundreds of versions of “true” fundamentalism, all of which believe almost exactly the same things and none of which will have anything to do with the others.

  8. Don,

    As a Calvinist Presbyterian TR-only advocate, one might have assumed that I would be joining in the vitriol against Pastor Sweatt. Having listened to his message, I understand his concern even if he diagnosed the wrong cause. The truth is that the left-leaning SI cabal have been waiting for a mistake by someone within “old Fundamentalism” for a number of years to feed the baying Neo-Evangelical wolves. Sweatt just happened to be the fall guy. Bauder et al have waxed verbosely using double entendres in blogdom for months hinting at the need for a re-alignment with MacArthur, Piper et al but not daring to speak out to protect the constituencies of influence that they feed in.

    Strangely, we note the CCM, Versions, Abstinence issues being thrown around as well as the “imperialist” charges against Bob Jones Jr., John R. Rice etc. This was not the central issue of Sweatt’s charge but in reality it was the true object of the young “Deformed” Fundamentalist viewpoint now seeking the ascendancy. Despite their bombastic approach, the Sweattgate opponents are like the rhetorician in the story who wrote in the margin of his notes, “Argument weak. Shout here.” When you have the Rap Music, Toronto Blessing, Driscoll-cussing, Mother Theresa fan of John Piper stating on his blog that you are “good breeze” then you know you are in big trouble! If I were Bauder I would be searching my conscience as to why such a deeply flawed writer could endorse me so unreservedly. Can’t imagine Bob Jones Jr ever had a similar glowing endorsement from say Jerry Falwell!

    The truth is that Bauder, Pettegrew, Glenny, Straub at Central and Dave Doran, Pearson L. Johnson, Samuel A. Dawson at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary all attended openly Neo-Evangelical schools for their graduate education. Larry Oats at Maranatha did the same. Yet, paradoxically on Detroit’s website they say of their faculty that “Each is committed to the glory of God, the ministry of the local church, the need to train and send men into the gospel ministry, and the need for personal and ecclesiastical separation.” Is the latter really credible or true? I confronted one of these men personally recently and he admitted he had to objective reason for speaking out against the YF attending T4G and Shepherds Conferences when he sat under the same men for 4 years to do his graduate work! He also admitted that he did not learn any more at his compromised seminary than he would have at an accredited “separatist” one such as BJU.

    I agree (again) with Kent Brandenburg that one of the root causes of this dispute is the concord on the textual issue now between the BJU/CBTS/DBTS/YFers and the Neo-Evangelicals. In 1924, the liberal paper The Christian Century was clear that “the Bible of the fundamentalist is one Bible: the Bible of Modernism is another.” Today, we have now the same Ecumenical Greek Text sold and promoted by BJU/CBTS/DBTS as for the modernist, liberal and Romanist Bibles. As Mark Dever and Mark Minnick made clear on their comments on the former’s website the TR-only position is one that they both are united in their distaste for. Can you think of another issue that Bauder and friends can write on and be published by a mainstream NE publisher like Kregel in “One Bible Only”?

    The zeitgeist of our contemporary apostate age now demands a “new and improved” version of everything including the Scriptures. Our places of worship have dropped the name “church,” reduced worship to entertainment, and promoted effeminate “preacher gurus” in Hawaii shirts to share the latest psychological fad. We have also now a marked subservience to scientism as the dominant cultural standard. Did the church make such a gross error in over 500 years of interpretation? What has primarily changed since the Reformation is the way man defines and uses science. Modern scientific opinion has been elevated to the status of general revelation giving it an absolute a priori veto over how we interpret Scripture. So much for singing, ‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise!’ Textual criticism is built on the intolerant foundation of prejudice against the promises of Scripture. Its motive is driven by the axiom that modern man always seeks out a way of removing His Creator from the source of truth, as autonomous man aspires to fill the vacancy.

    Critical Text (CT) advocates, such as Bauder, have no ultimate and certain standard for determining objective truth. Without the Biblical doctrine of perfect providential preservation, we are left with non-answers in these areas. This is not a minor shift but one of seismic proportions. Fortunately, most CT advocates of the past were better believers than theologians and have been able to live with the inherent contradiction of their system by simply declaring the gospel from the TR. They were incapable of following their own premises out to the end of the road they were on. This has now been challenged by the belligerent approach of the new breed of CT adherents, the proliferation of translations, and the ever mutating latest edition of the evolutionary Greek Text.

    The truth is that Miss Pragmatism is a seductive mistress for those seeking the approval of the NE scholarship but unfortunately she produces some very ugly offspring. We see the Athaliah’s of the Jehoshaphat compromise with textual criticism flooding blogdom this week. Nuff said!!!

    • Hi Paul

      I appreciate your response, but aside from the points about the “SI left” waiting for and pouncing on a mistake and about the NE seminaries, I can’t agree with your analysis.

      I don’t want to derail this thread with KJO discussion, so please don’t add any more along that line. I will not approve any more posts in this thread on that issue. It is not correct. There are many people like me who hold to an eclectic approach who are just as concerned about the leftward drift in fundamentalist circles. We do have authority for that concern and it is the Word of God.

      So let me reiterate. No more posts regarding the KJO issue, from either side. I will not approve them.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. MarkO says:

    Why are they leaving you ask?

    from where I sit possibly…

    1. CCM, new hymns, new use of instruments, lively worship styles, etc.

    2. expository, passionate preaching among evangelicals vs. topical, bone-picking “preaching” among Fundies

    3. the evangelicals are skilled at using the “new media” – they have mastered internet communication and book publishing skills.

    4. The Cities – the Fundie’s lack of a unified passion to spread the Gospel everywhere. They would rather (it seems to me) defend their turf than lavishly spread the Gospel everywhere. There are some places Fundies don’t typically go to spread the Gospel – they are mostly in the suburbs.

    5. the term “fundamentalist” or “fundamentalism” 100 years ago had basically one meaning in religious terms in America. now who know what it means. in our time the word “fundamentalism” has lost its meaning because there are too many ways to try to define it. To be quite honest, right now in Chrisitian America “fundamentalism” probably describes an attitude more than anything else – an edgy, confrontational attitude. some of us are worn out with that attitude.

    6. keeping a primary focus on The Gospel is so refreshing. (btw – all the original 5 fundamentals are contained in the Gospel anyway, I Cor 15:1-11) conservative evangelical may not be perfect in this area but their passion for The Gospel palatable.

    7. a revivied interest in the Puritan writers. a revived interest in the 5 Solas.

    it is a complex issue I am sure.

    However, the best antecdote for keeping the faith pure is to spread The Gospel everywhere, making those converts disciples in The Word and leave them with a personal passion for the wonder and greatness of GOD.

    • MarkO,

      Thank you for your comment. A couple of points in reply…

      On #2. – Mostly, I think this is untrue for two reasons: 1. Most of the fundamentalists I know try to mainly be expository in their preaching methods. 2. Topical and textual sermons are legitimate forms of preaching. I don’t personally usually do them because I think they are harder to do right than expository. But they are legitimate forms of preaching.

      On #4. – Fundamentalism is mostly a small movement, so their ‘saturation point’ has not been reached. I would venture to guess that there may be some cities where there is little in the way of fundamentalist churches. However, in cities like New York City and San Francisco I know of several strong fundamentalist works and church-planting pastors. I think you are just not aware of what fundamentalists are doing in their efforts to spread the gospel.

      On #6. – Usually these days when you use capital letters for “The Gospel” people mean Calvinism. I don’t think Calvinism = The Gospel or even the gospel. However, I would point out that the CEs are not so passionate for the gospel (or Gospel) that they are not willing to allow the gospel to be tarnished by their partnerships with blasphemers. I would agree that some may be leaving Fundamentalism because they think the CEs are ‘passionate’ for the gospel, but they would be wrong in thinking that.

      It looks like I am quibbling with all your even numbered reasons!

      Your odd numbered reasons are part of the reason, I think. And I agree that it is complex, not a simple issue at all.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. MarkO says:


    my explanations:

    about #2 – I was trying to use punctuation correctly and alas I was misunderstood. Here is the complete thot in one bracket :

    about #4
    Yes, I know several Fundie pastors who are in a city and others who are trying to plant city churches. BUT in comparision the Fundies are mostly in the suburbs.

    about #6
    using a capital “G” in Gospel somehow turns that word into a Calvinist word? uh? that is the oddest thing I’ve read in the last 40 years of being either an Armenian or Reformed believer. I do alot of reading in the area of theology and have alot Phd friends in theology – first time I ever heard that.

    thanks for letting me sound off.

    • Hi MarkO

      I guess I should say on #6 and the capital G is that this is my theory. I guess I was being a little dogmatic there, and should have asked a question first. It does seem, however, that when Calvinists talk about being Gospel-centered, for example, they are using code for Calvin.

      It may be odd, but then you do have to consider the source.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. Nathan McKinney says:

    Heard the instruction on having a “Gospel-centered” ministry and preaching from Tim Keller and a local guy … didn’t catch Calvinism from either, and it turns out the local guy doesn’t claim to be Calvinist. So just some anecdotal “evidence” that “Gospel-centered” can mean something far greater (and different) than just Calvinism.


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